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25 Positive Predictions for 2024, Part 1

Let's start off the new year with some positivity! We asked several top industry thought leaders to share their perspectives on 2023 as it ends, and what we can look forward to as we round the corner into a shiny new year.

1. Kathryn Albarado

Generational Business and Life Coach

The last few years have been challenging for the event world, especially caterers. The ability to stop the collapsing of the dominos seemed endless. Caterers went from dealing with the cancellation of events due to COVID, to the break in the supply chain, and then the lack of finding and keeping qualified staff. Now the biggest challenge is the unrealistic expectations customers have placed on the service industry. 

Catering isn’t for the faint of heart. The truth is, we do it because we have a servant’s heart. Feeding people not just in body but in soul is where we get our greatest satisfaction. My hope for 2024 is that we see staffing stabilize. The stabilization of labor will help caterers do what they do best—provide memorable meals for memorable events. 

2. Todd Annis

Director of Culinary, Cru Catering 

 The simple pleasure of bread and butter will be something to look for in the future. In addition, breads and butters that meet some of the restrictions (gluten-free, vegan, and carb-friendly) will all help this trend succeed in the future.

Speaking of dietary restrictions, specific dietary and preferential needs are not going away any time soon. Catching up to those needs is pivotal in the future. Labeling signs, labeling menus, having a chef team that can produce specialty items at their best, creating full vegetarian menus and vegan menus, and putting systems in place to accommodate and excel at these will be a huge difference-maker in the future. 

Another new trend is to cut down on the lines at stations and pass the entrées or tapas-style plates. For example, crab cakes with Brussels slaw, pork belly, and a caper remoulade on a small plate passed—this way, guests get to enjoy a fully designed plate without having to get in line. These are great for cocktail receptions or even large parties where servers can get to guests while they are mingling and sharing stories. We see small chef-composed plates that can get anywhere are a future trend in our industry.

3. Alan Berg

Owner, Wedding Business Solutions

The wedding industry is in for a bumpy ride as the wedding gap kicks in. If you haven’t heard about the “wedding gap,” it’s that during the COVID lockdowns people weren’t out meeting other people, so relationships that would have naturally formed without being sequestered didn’t happen. Therefore, about three years later the engagements that would have happened aren’t happening. That will even itself out in a year or two, but for now, expect fewer engagements, so fewer inquiries. But don’t fret; you probably already are getting more inquiries than you could fill, so just get better at following up and converting the inquiries you are getting into sales.

4. Margaret Brower

Founder & CEO, Rainmaker Sales & Marketing Group

As we stand on the cusp of 2024, I foresee a transformative shift in the world of catering bookings, particularly for weddings. The middle, that familiar 12–14 month booking window we've grown accustomed to, we are poised to see less of. 

But here's the twist: it's not just about shorter timelines; it's also about looking further ahead.

On one end of the spectrum, we'll witness a surge of "in the month for the month" bookings. Think of it as the corporate business model making its way into the wedding scene. The instant gratification of the “add to cart” mindset is upon us. These short-term wedding bookings will demand our immediate attention, agility, and intention. We'll need to approach them with the same fervor we reserve for corporate clients. 

In essence, 2024 is set to be a year of duality for catering sales. We'll be sprinting for those immediate bookings while also setting our sights on the horizon. It's a delicate balance, but with eagerness, adaptability, and a dash of foresight, we can navigate this evolving landscape with grace and success.

5. Colbért Callen

Director Sales + Marketing, Footers Catering

I foresee the catering industry returning to elegant roots in 2024. The pivots are over, our teams are back to full capacity, and we are ready to deliver on what attracted us to our unique niche of hospitality to begin with. Next year clients will value style, grace, and attention to detail more than ever before. Caterers are striving to be the best again (not merely just surviving post-COVID), and the ability to deliver perfect touches will be a big competitive advantage. Don’t mistake elegance for boring or traditional; innovation and creativity will continue to be crucial to the catering industry, but a unique idea isn’t enough. Elegance is achieved when a creative concept is executed perfectly, from the physical details of plating, garnishes, signage, and vessels to the intangible touches of lighting, timing, smiles, and delight—that magic that caterers have the power to create when every detail of the guest experience is seamless. In 2024, clients, guests, and our own team will seek that elegance.  

6. Sebastien Centner

Founder and Creative Director, Eatertainment Events & Catering

I see two major positive things happening in 2024. On the culinary side, the rise of quality and variety of special dietary ingredients, like gluten-free and vegan items. Changing how people look at food, no longer having to sacrifice flavor or quality to meet certain dietary needs. In terms of technology, I think AI may pose a massive risk. It will undoubtedly change how we work, especially on the creative front, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs for things like copywriting and graphic design.

7. Jamie Chang

Owner and Destination Wedding Planner, Mango Muse Events

I see 2024 as the turning point for the industry (particularly in the U.S.) to take big steps toward sustainability. Those already doing great work will be at the forefront, leading the way, but all event businesses, big and small, will take major steps and changes towards zero waste and sustainable events. At this point, everyone has been affected by climate change in a real and tangible way, whether that's with major weather disasters or just feeling the increased heat. It's time for a major change in our industry, and I think many in the events industry are realizing that. 

I see changes happening not only within businesses themselves and how they operate but also in the options presented to the end client. Because we see everything that goes into a one-time event and what happens after, change at the industry level in terms of offerings and ideas will, in turn, trickle down to clients. The more aware and sustainably forward-thinking we as an industry are, the more clients will be, too, so that we can collectively approach events with sustainability in mind. 

8. Francisco Christian

Founder, Taylored Hospitality

2024 will see a huge impact from technology in the catering industry. More companies are finally moving from Excel and Word to fully integrated software platforms. In addition, ChatGPT has been helping not only the sales side of the business, but operations is benefiting from the wealth of standard operating procedures and processes available like never before. I'm so excited when a client realizes how technology can give them time back to work on the business and it impacts profitability positively. I'm excited to see how AI is learning about the catering industry just by more and more users seeking information. Soon, companies will be able to use the technology to unleash the data that they own to help their creative process. 

In addition, our clients are realizing that doing business the way that it has been done needs to change. We are working with companies that are now understanding the short sales cycle and coming up with unique ways to help their sales teams qualify faster and get deposits quicker. As the Amazon buyers try to apply their instant gratification needs to catering and special events, companies that are agile and able to not overcomplicate the sales process will be victorious.

Hear More Perspectives from the Pros 

You can get even more insight from these industry professionals when they present during this year’s Catersource + The Special Event: 

Check back next week for part two in our Positive Predictions series.


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